Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Are Jindal and Levine Lying About NOAH?

According to a March 24, 2008, LA Department of Health & Hospitals press release, precisely one year ago, Governor Jindal acknowledged a dire mental health crisis in New Orleans:
Jindal said, "The broken pieces in our mental healthcare system affect every Louisianian, but the problem is especially acute in New Orleans. New Orleans officials estimate that the annual suicide rate has more than tripled since Hurricane Katrina...and the World Health Organization estimates that tens of thousands of people in the storm-affect region today have a serious mental illness. We must take a comprehensive approach to address this crisis -- one that incorporates the needs of patients, law enforcement, and the community as a whole."

Said DHH Secretary Levine in the same March 24, 2008 press release:
"The combined impact of these bills and the Governor’s budget represents a sweeping transformation of our mental health system," said Levine. "The mental health system has been neglected, and while it won’t be fixed overnight, this is the kind of commitment one would expect of a reform-minded Governor."
A February 15, 2008, DHH press release announced: "NOAH key to easing mental health crisis in New Orleans," and included this tidbit: “The occupancy rate at NOAH was 96 percent in 2007. These beds are almost always full. Opening up 20 new beds is critical to providing mental health services in the city because it will help to reduce waiting time for patients who require hospitalization.” Yet, just last week, Dr. Levine insisted that there is no dire need for psychiatric beds in New Orleans:
"I keep hearing, 'Where are we going to take these people?' " Levine said. "But the numbers we're seeing, the demand doesn't appear."

And in DHH's own words: "NOAH was the first public mental health inpatient facility to re-open after Katrina within New Orleans and remains at the forefront of providing these vital services to a population in great need. Prior to NOAH’s re-opening, people with mental illnesses were either not treated, were seen and discharged from hospital emergency rooms or were transferred to hospitals elsewhere in the state."

Yet, at the N.O. City Council Mental Health Subcommittee meeting on March 27, 2009, DHH Deputy Secretary Sybil Richard had the audacity to tell us that the proposal to move NOAH across the lake was something that would have been done anyway in the interest of patient care and was a decision not borne of Jindal's desire to rid the budget of anything non-revenue producing (i.e., services for a parish of Democrats who never have and never will donate to his campaign coffers.)

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